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UEFA Champions League Preview: Juventus vs. Olympiacos — Go Greece lightning

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Pier Marco Tacca

Before we delve into this preview any further, let's take a look at what the Group A standings look like after two incredibly unpredictable games.

Team Wins Losses Draws Points Goal Differential
Juventus 1 1 0 3 +1
Atlético Madrid 1 1 0 3 0
Malmö 1 1 0 3 0
Olympiacos 1 1 0 3 -1

Just like we all though, right? Riiiiiight.

As you can see, there's a common theme here. It's not difficult to figure out, so we don't have to reach for our college degrees to support claims about discovering out these things. All four teams have won one game, lost one game, and stand on three points after about 180 minutes or so of Champions League action this season. The goal differentials are the only things that aren't the same, which is why Juventus find themselves in the top spot.

Even with the group a total mess right now, Juventus finds itself in the same kind of deal it does last time they were away from home in the Champions League — holding the chance to get a little breathing room at the top of the group. They're not going to Spain time, rather off to the land of ancient mythology and grandeur. Juventus vs. Olympiacos is the third game for both clubs in Group A, otherwise known as the official midway point of what has been a virtually unpredictable Champions League group stage to date.

Does the matchup, at least on paper, swing things in Juventus' favor? Well, of course. Outside of their next game against Alético Madrid, everything should be swinging in Juve's favor because they're the second best team in the group. But as we've seen in recent games, Juve are a team that aren't close their best right now. One day they can put in a so-so kind of performance and still manage to beat somebody like Roma, the next they can play a sub-par game and draw with Sassuolo.

Say Good Juventus — or even Somewhat Good Juventus — shows up tomorrow night in Greece, what would that mean? Well beside the obvious of giving Juventus a better chance at three points, it would put them in a good position to actually get through this interesting group with two of the final three group stage games at Juventus Stadium.

Or, we can just see what Max Allegri has to say on the matter...

GOOD NEWS

If Juventus wins, they'll be tied at the top of the table at the very least. I'd say that's good news considering how Group A currently looks after two rounds.

BAD NEWS

For one, Juventus aren't exactly rolling over the Greece country lines with a bunch of momentum. It's not like a frustrating 1-1 draw against Sassuolo will give you a bunch of wind in your sails anyways.

Secondly, the usual folks are still injured. That means no Andrea Barzagli, no Martín Cáceres and Romulo or Luca Marrone. Then again, we've been used to them being hurt for weeks now, so it's not exactly a surprise to see them on the injury report these days.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

1. The status and effectiveness of Arturo Vidal.

I hate to break it to the Italian press, but Vidal didn't play against Sassuolo because of getting back late to Turin after international duty, not because Max Allegri hates his guts. Sorry to kill that story, guys, but that's just how it goes. And now that Vidal has returned to Italy after being with the Chilean national team, gotten a few training sessions in, one has to think that Vidal's place in the starting lineup will be restored and everything will be back to normal. "Getting back to normal" means Vidal actually gets back to playing like the Vidal of old — commanding the midfield, making an impact on both offense and defense, doing just about everything and then some. We're not talking about the Vidal that was almost non-existent in Madrid a few weeks back. Juventus need Vidal to be Vidal — and not just Wednesday night, but going forward from here on out.

2. The status and effectiveness of Paul Pogba.

For maybe the first time all season this past Saturday, we saw the Pogba we're used to seeing. The same Pogba who makes impressive runs that leave would-be tacklers in the dust. The same Pogba who scores fantastic goals and makes them look almost routine at the same time. The same Pogba who is just one of the best players on the field because he's a complete monster when on form. I won't go as far as to scream "HE BACK!" from the top of the closest hill because Pogba had one good game. That's just being a little too much for my liking. But after a not-so-hot start to the season, it was good to see Pogba put in a really good showing with so many important games on the horizon. Basically, keep it going, Paul. And score a couple more awesome goals while you're at it.

3. Is this the game that Álvaro Morata gets his first Juventus start?

A secondary or alternate question could be this: With the way Fernando Llorente is playing right now, why wouldn't you at least try to shake things up alongside Carlos Tévez? We know Llorente's form is arguably as bad as its ever been since he's put on a Juventus jersey. What we don't know is what Juventus will look like when Morata gets his first Juventus start. That day will come, we just don't know when. Until that point, though, we are left to wonder just what things might look like based on what Juve's €20 million summer signing has done off the bench. Morata will obviously bring different characteristics to the field if he does indeed get the start. That may just be what Juve's attack needs to get going once again and not be so Tévez-dependent.

4. Andrea Pirlo or Claudio Marchisio?

We've talked about the other two central midfielders, so why not the other spot? Seeing as Vidal should start and Pogba should start, we're left to decide between two midfielders for one spot. Pirlo hasn't been all that great since he returned from injury two-plus weeks ago. On the other hand, Marchisio was very good more often than not while filling in for Pirlo the first month of the season. It could be a simple decision for Allegri, one that hinges on what kind of game he wants his squad to play in a very hostile atmosphere at the Karaiskakis Stadium.

5. Patrice Evra or Kwadwo Asamoah?

Common logic tells me that Asamoah was simply held out against Sassuolo for the same kind of reasons Vidal was — a long trip back to Turin that resulted in him being one of the last internationals to return. It was the same. While Asamoah returned to the starting lineup the first post-international break Champions League game last month, it was as a central midfielder, meaning Evra was starting out on the left wing not matter what. But both are available for selection now, and given Evra's less-than-stellar form this season, it should be Asamoah starting at left wingback tomorrow night. But as we saw when Allegri filled out the starting lineup against Atlético Madrid three weeks ago, we won't know for sure until an hour before kickoff.

My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Ogbonna, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Marchisio Pogba, Asamoah; Tévez, Morata

OFFICIAL KICKOFF TIME: 8:45 P.M. IN ITALY; 2:45 P.M. ON THE EAST COAST; 11:45 A.M. ON THE WEST COAST